Proposed alliance between Congress, TDP surprising and shocking

If the Congress, TDP alliance materialises, it would bear comparison with the pre-1999 electoral pact between M Karunanidhi’s DMK and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP.

Updated: Sep 18, 2018 09:08:24

By Vinod Sharma

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Andra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu. (AFP File Photo)

Politics in our country never ceases to surprise or shock. The proposed alliance between the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) does both -- it surprises and shocks in equal measure.

If it materialises, the tie-up would bear comparison with the pre-1999 electoral pact between M Karunanidhi’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). In terms of their incompatibility, a parallel could also be drawn with the now dissipated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir.

Those optimistic about the Congress-TDP convergence say the alliance would gain in Hyderabad-Secunderabad and Khamam. A sizeable number of Andhra people, including those from Chandrababu Naidu’s Kamma caste, are settled in these areas, which account for nearly three dozen seats in the 119-member Telangana assembly.

The tie-up’s other presumed positive is its impact on the 12% Muslim vote that’s broadly perceived to be with K Chandrashekar Rao (referred to as KCR). The chief minister is fluent in Urdu, has a good equation with Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittihad al-Muslimin, and has managed to keep the community in good humour. Cited in that context are the 200-odd residential schools he has set up with a 79:21 ratio of Muslim to Hindu students.

Besides the Communist Party of India, the new alliance also comprises M Kodandaram’s Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS). It is likely to split the Muslim vote by hyping KCR’s proximity to the BJP, regardless of what BJP chief Amit Shah says by way of attacking the CM. “That slogan was once used against Naidu… the boot now is on the other foot,” said Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, managing editor of the Hyderabad-based Urdu daily Siasat.

The TDP’s ambivalence on separate statehood for Telangana is another Achilles heel of the new coalition. Khan said the combine should have its campaign led by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to tide over the contradiction. The former Congress chief is held in high esteem for the key role she had played in the formation of Telangana. Of as much help in removing misconceptions that the ruling TRS might create will be the TJS, which has an impeccable record on the statehood issue as an offshoot of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC).

Questions persist nevertheless about the potency of the anti-KCR alliance. For his part, the CM has started painting the Opposition tie-up as Andhra’s conspiracy to again “enslave” Telangana. Then there’s the imponderable about whether the Congress and the TDP workers could be a team after having fought each other for decades.

Whether or not it clicks, the Congress-TDP experiment will not be the first-of-its-kind. There are several other instances of such alignments in politics. An example of it was Bihar, where the Janata Dal (United) joined with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress to defeat the BJP.

The BJP’s 1999 alliance with the DMK was unprecedented, both socially and politically. The Dravidian party’s rationalist, anti-Brahmin roots made it the most unlikely partner of the saffron standard bearers who openly courted sadhus and seers. The gulf didn’t come in the way of Vajpayee again becoming PM for a fuller term.

The DMK had replaced in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) its major rival in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) after J Jayalalithaa plotted Vajpayee’s fall with the Congress but failed to set up an alternative regime. The TDP’s Naidu was the early bird that arrived before Karunanidhi. He shifted allegiances after dumping the United Front, formed in 1996 to keep the BJP out of power.

For Naidu, the wheel has come full circle since his father-in-law, the late NT Rama Rao, formed the party to oust the Congress on the Telugu Atmagouravam (Telugu Pride) plank. The tectonic shift in undivided Andhra happened when Rajiv Gandhi publicly admonished then chief minister T Anjiah at Begumpet airport. That was over three-and-a-half decades ago, in January of 1983.

First Published: Sep 18, 2018 06:57:55


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